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Wednesday, 02 October 2013

Susie MacNamara

By Dani Ferguson Phillips of The Cataract Club

When I was a little girl, I aspired to be many things. In my early years, my aspirations were simple. When asked at age three, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My understated response was simply, “A train wheel.”

By the age of six I had learned that becoming an inanimate object, no matter how much you enjoyed the sound, was not an obtainable goal. So I began to aspire for more practical professions such as a Howdy Doody Ice cream Lady.

I could think of no better career than making children and adults happy by delivering ice cream in a little yellow truck while ringing a bell.

But in 1956 I discovered Private Secretary played by Ann Southern. I’d watch Susie MacNamara type away on her big black Underwood typewriter and take dictation from her theatrical agent boss Porter.

I loved everything about her. She was fashionable and organized. She answered the phone on her desk without even picking up the receiver. From the moment I discovered Susie I started playing secretary.

Before I learned to write, I would just scribble on little notebooks pretending to take dictation. I used my mother’s recipe boxes for my files and my toy telephone sat on my TV tray desk just waiting for a call from my boss.

Because of my fascination with the TV show, my uncle gave me a huge Underwood typewriter. It had no letters on the keys so a finger chart was hung on the wall for me too look at while I typed.

Eventually I learned all the keys and the correct finger placement. I was typing fairly efficiently by the time I was in the 6th grade but my only problem was my hands were a bit small to gain much speed. My pinkies weren’t even strong enough to suppress the keys.

By the time I was in high school, I had taken every typing class offered, short hand and business communications and if I say so myself I excelled as a typist. I typed more than 90 words a minute my senior year and with better than 90 percent accuracy. My highest speed reaching over 100 words per minute with 100% accuracy.

When I started college I found that it was fairly easy to avoid the typical food service jobs by utilizing my typing skills. My first job was a part-time position at the local tag agency typing car titles. This job required accuracy because any mistake on a title resulted in the title being destroyed.

This is where I learned to type numbers. The vehicle identification numbers were quite long and since typos were not allowed you had to be accurate as well as fast.

I never planned on being a professional secretary but because of my typing skills it’s the path that I most often followed. When I married in 1969, I left college to work and put my husband through school. But after he finished his MS degree in accounting he was also finished with the marriage.

So, I continued working as a secretary only this time it was in order to put myself through school and to support my children.

Juggling motherhood, a full time job and school turned out to be harder than I could have imagined. By the time I finished my degree I had acquired almost 20 years experience as an executive secretary.

I had worked so long that I was making more money as a secretary than I could make as an entry-level journalist. With two daughters approaching college age it made no financial sense to leave my current position to start an entirely new career.

And so it went. Susie McNamara was more than a tv character; she was my career advisor!

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


It's so interesting, fate leads us down the path to now...that gift of a typewriter helped to determine your working skills.
My husband's aunt gave him a microphone that she painted with gold colored paint, he worked as a radio announcer for many years. Who knows, he might have done the same but I think she was the one who gave him the idea.

Yours is a nifty story, and well developed. I love your last sentence, wrapping up the story cleverly.
Janet Thompson

A friend told me he was scheduled for typing class in high school by mistake. He wanted out because only girls took typing, but he missed the deadline to get it changed.

After high school he got drafted into the army and found himself on his way to Viet Nam. When he got there they asked if any of the new men knew how to type. He said he did.

They assigned him to an administration job where he spent his entire tour. He came back alive, but many of the guys he arrived with didn't.

A key stroke of luck?

I wish I had learned to type. As some of you know from a past story of mine, those in my HS who were preparing to go to college did not take typing. At that time they thought college graduates would most likely have secretaries.

Susie, you are a good writer, too- and you don't have to hunt and peck and make mistakes like I do.

Dani is not only a good typist, but a good writer. And apparently she writes under the pseudonym "Susie" these days. ;)

I took typing too. My speed (after correcting for errors) was -9 wpm. I just wasn't strong enough to pound the ratty manual keys of those high school typewriters.

Howver now on the lpptop my fgingres fli bt i stul mka th occisoal mistkake. LOL

Hugs from Canada

Loved main stories and the comments are super....I hated typing in hs, but my mother insisted I take it...so I took Latin and typing and god knows got every job because I could type and spell...no one ever asked me why the years of Latin..did my mother know some mother secret or was she jealous that she only had a year of hs before she had to go to business school and get out there and help support her then motherless and missing father family...all my kids type, girl and two brothers..she went to college and law school and hires her own typists now, the boys both always got jobs because they could type..life do be strange...guess my mom knew that like all moms seem to...

The computer was made for typists like me--extremely fast and extremely inaccurate. It's so easy now--I can fix the errors in less time than if I had gone slowly and methodically in the first place. Great story, Dani. Sometimes life makes our decisions for us--my onset of rheumatoid disease at age 23 did that for me. Instead of having a mediocre semi-career of classical and church music and private teaching that I trained for, I ended up in a wonderfully enriching and satisfying career performing and teaching folk music--ya' never know!

Funny, flirtatious in a way, educational, motivating and damned good writing skills, I loved it and hope there is more to come.

Funny how these things work out. I have told my typing teacher at least once how much what she taught me is essential in my life. But I still type only about 45 words a minute and not well at that. Too many errors but I thank God for computers which allow for easy correction. Thanks for sharing.

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